Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Radio: Today, it’s war.

Leading the charge is Boy Kevin Martin, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, which he believes to be his own personal hackery.

Just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, the victim du jour is you.

Martin’s trying to push through more deregulation; allowing corporations in nearly all major cities to own TV and radio stations and newspapers in the same market.

He wrote off criticism from Congress as bipartisan politics and said that he was “not convinced that we would ever reach a consensus on media ownership.”

Kev, ever think there’s good reason for that? But I digress….

Even a threat by Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) to investigate some of the improprieties uncovered by the dreaded General Accounting Office on Martin’s leaks to certain media companies and trade groups failed to deter the Boy Kevster.

Martin refuses to admit that he broke any rules. He was just passing along inside information to those companies and groups so they could get their lobbying efforts in order. It always helps to know which palms need to be greased and when. What’s so bad about that?

Face it. When was the last time you heard of the corrupt being prosecuted and convicted in Washington anyway?

If there’s one thing those Bushoid Republicans can’t stand, it’s democracy.

Even our beer drinkin’, hell raisin’ Fumbles had the NAB launching a “defend Kevvie” campaign, though the latter considers the former a mess in a dress. It’s probably the only thing I’d ever agree with the Kevster on.

Those backing the Kev claim the need for more flexibility and rule relaxing and anything less critically jeopardizes its competitive fight with new media. It’s a weak argument considering radio and TV are free media and the alleged new media competition they’re whining about isn’t.

How to survive in Washington? Never confuse anyone with the facts.

Times and technology have changed and there are old rules that should no longer apply in this brave new world – but the issues and solutions are not as black and white as Martin claims.

Personally, I liked the ethically-impaired Martin’s raison d'être for pushing through more deregulation. He claims the major chains are truly concerned for the smaller station chains and the few remaining independent owners, whose backs, they claim, would be crushed by the costs and paperwork that would come with increased regulation.

In their world, clusters surrounding and squeezing an independent radio station for ad revenue, has nothing to do with the ability for those stations to survive.

Just a couple of weeks back, the Senate Commerce Committee fired off a message to Kev declaring its unanimous endorsement of a bill, which would oblige the FCC to address localism and minority ownership before acting on larger media ownership rules.

Martin’s a cockroach. His earth gets scorched and he’s still standing. His cross-ownership campaign should’ve been dead by now, but it isn’t. Kev got his way and lived to see another day when Sam Zell got his Tribune waiver – and that waiver is proving to be a game plan that could fall Kevvie’s way should the deregulation stalemate end up in court.

In his world, wrong is the new right.

Some claim Martin may try to turn his FCC deregulation proposal into a swap meet. Give me what I want and I’ll throw you a bone. Maybe. Maybe not.

He could claim he’ll acquiesce on re-regulation of stations for the option of having companies prove that they’re acting in the public interest and creating a “live operator” rule, a nonsensical, unenforceable rule that stations must have at least the stink of one live human being operator on duty at all times.

The chains, of course, will claim poverty, insisting that would add even more work to overworked and underpaid program directors who are already overseeing multiple stations (not to mention those well-listened to HD Radio stations) – sometimes in multiple markets – and that the bulk of the grunt work will fall on them.

So it’s everyone else’s problem that these companies abided by the greater fool theory and significantly overpaid for their radio properties?

Let ‘em eat smoke from a distant fire sale.

Then there’s that pesky rumor leaking out of Martin’s office about foreign ownership – or at the very least, foreign investment in U.S. broadcast media.

Maybe he’ll play swap meet on that deal, too, and settle for allowing U.S. stations to hire Baahir, Bhumin, and Bandhu from Bangalore to voice-track.

That’s a joke. I think.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I often don't agree with your assessment of the broadcast industry. This time you are right on about Kevin Martin and the FCC. We are still a democracy and changes in FCC law should be approved by Congress. Who gave Kevin Martin the right to bypass Congress? He also pulled a slick stunt with Sam Zell, too.

Anonymous said...

Gorman - DON'T give these broadcasters any ideas about voice tracking from India. They WILL do it!

Are you aware that Clear Channel now does their weekend giveaways on many of their stations by text messaging instead of calling? I wonder if it had anything to do with your blog on them doing giveaways without having anyone to answer the phones at the stations. Texting allows them to do giveaways with the winner getting selected by computer and as you say "no stink" of a human being at the board to answer the phone.

Anonymous said...

Foreign ownership of American media is against the law. The FCC can't change that.

I think there may be a few surprises at today's meeting that a lot of bloggers and haters won't expect.

There have been rumors on increased regulations in exchange for any loosening of ownership laws.

Suppose companies could own more stations, but were required to be manned 24 hours a day, required to do local news, and required to do community ascertainment? Would you accept that.

Anonymous said...

This isn't a change in the law. That's part of the problem. The original law (96 Act) was poorly written. Martin is merely following the law, and he told Congress that last week, and they had no answer for that. That's why they have no choice but to say "Pretty please with sugar on top." He's not "rushing" into anything. This cross-ownership ban has been discussed for more than 5 years. They're just delaying the inevitable.

Lots of newspapers have waivers to own broadcasting. In Dallas, Atlanta, and New York, as well as the Tribune in Chicago. Those stations tend to be among the best run stations in their market. I think radio would improve if newspapers were allowed to own radio. Newspapers have great local newsgathering resources, and they're far more advanced in using the internet. I think if you look at this from a realistic perspective instead of anti-corporate perspective, you'll see that newspapers would be better owners than CC, Cumulus, and Citadel.

Anonymous said...

In response to the last two posts.
The CRTC floated the idea of foreign ownership and it was shot down. That does not mean that the FCC will not push for foreign ownership for bail out purposes. If a newspaper can be owned by foreigners why not radio and TV and that will be their argument.

If not that "fire sale" of radio will be inevitable.

I would not be as quick to say that newspapers would be better owners than Clear Channel or CBS. They have their own set of problems by being late to new media, too.

Anonymous said...

In response to the last two posts.
The CRTC floated the idea of foreign ownership and it was shot down. That does not mean that the FCC will not push for foreign ownership for bail out purposes. If a newspaper can be owned by foreigners why not radio and TV and that will be their argument.

If not that "fire sale" of radio will be inevitable.

I would not be as quick to say that newspapers would be better owners than Clear Channel or CBS. They have their own set of problems by being late to new media, too.

Anonymous said...

In response to the last two posts.
The CRTC floated the idea of foreign ownership and it was shot down. That does not mean that the FCC will not push for foreign ownership for bail out purposes. If a newspaper can be owned by foreigners why not radio and TV and that will be their argument.

If not that "fire sale" of radio will be inevitable.

I would not be as quick to say that newspapers would be better owners than Clear Channel or CBS. They have their own set of problems by being late to new media, too.

Anonymous said...

Poorly written by design. That is what the Telecom bill was for radio and tv especially radio. I recall reading Clear Channel's annual report which said something like "now they can't touch us".

You mentioned that Bob Dole was the one that entered that midnight rider to the telecom bill. Why haven't I read that anywhere else and who was behind Dole inserting that.

Anonymous said...

Whatever comes out of today we can rest assured knowing that this administration is still in power for one more year and that congress does not want to alienate themselves from media coverage.

I am afraid that Kevin Martin will get his way.

The newspapers are almost as bad as Clear Channel and the other radio station and TV station chains.

Pete townsend: Meet the new boss - same as the old boss.

Anonymous said...

Gee! call me crazy, but text messaging contests especially on a CHR makes a whole helluva lot of sense.


Congress should step in and confine the FCC to the areas they were designed for. Signal Countors and call letter changes.

Anonymous said...

The fact is there is a very limited pool of companies buying radio stations now. That has to change. Only two ways to do it: Enlarge the qualifications to buy, or allow foreign ownership.

I can't imagine any Republicans allowing foreigners to own US media. It just won't be popular, and will hurt them in local elections.

Rupert Murdoch needs someone who can challenge him. The only way that will happen is if all major papers can do what he has done.

This is the right move, and the Democrats should be supporting it.

Anonymous said...

"The CRTC floated the idea of foreign ownership and it was shot down."

Hey if that's possible, how do you feel about fed gov't ownership of radio?

All it takes is an act of Congress. No more free press. Just broadcasting from Washington DC. Maybe a division of VOA.

Why not? No one else wants to buy radio stations.

Anonymous said...

Kevin Martin reminds me of Ernie from 60's sitcom "My 3 Sons"

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